Permanence Overarching Strategy
AMENDMENTIn August 2015, this chapter was amended to take account of The Care Planning and Fostering (Miscellaneous Amendments) (England) Regulations 2015.
Walsall's overarching Permanency Strategy requires us to consider permanency planning from the very first contact with a child or young person and their family. The goal of permanency planning should be to provide a child with a safe, stable environment in which to grow up.
The report 'Making Not Breaking' (The Care Enquiry April 2013) concluded that:
"... 'permanence' for children means 'security, stability, love and a strong sense of identity and belonging'. This is not connected to legal status, and one route to permanence is not necessarily better than any other: each option is the right one for some children and young people."
The Children Act 1989 states:
"A child is a person, not an object of concern. The ethos of the Act is to listen to the child's wishes and feelings and treat children with respect as individuals. Children with sufficient maturity should be consulted on issues such as placements, review and long-term planning."(Children Act 1989 Sec 1.2).
The Care Planning and Fostering (Miscellaneous Amendments) (England) Regulations' 2015 provides the following definition:
"Permanence is the long term plan for the child's upbringing and provides an underpinning framework for all social work with children and families from family support through to adoption. The objective of planning from permanence is therefore to ensure that children have a secure, stable and loving family to support them through childhood and beyond and to give them a sense of security, continuity, commitment, identify and belonging".
Permanence, therefore, is a framework of physical, emotional and legal circumstances that give a child a sense of identity, security and commitment.
The aim is to avoid any delay in achieving permanence. From the very beginning of our intervention with a child and its family, social workers will be required to have the skills, knowledge and understanding of the issues impacting on the ability of parents and or primary carers to offer a fixed and long term relationship.
Longitudinal research shows that children generally thrive best in their own families. When the risk factors they face at home are so overwhelming that it is necessary to remove them, then children will fare much better if their family connections are maintained. This means that consideration must be given to friends, family and other connected persons in becoming the primary carer while remedial support is provided to parents to reduce the risk factors faced by children and strengthen parents and families to enable safe, permanent care as quickly as possible. If extended family are not a source of safety then a short term placement may be necessary in order to enable assessment to be undertaken and support provided. (Centre for Study of Social Policy 2008).
Social workers will need to complete qualitative assessment with clear risk analysis. This will need to tell the story of the child, with evidence and recommendation of the further support needed to promote a child's optimal outcomes through life's journey.
Assessments must be decisive, time limited and goal orientated to avoid children, particularly very young children being left in harmful and negative situations for too long if long term (Ward, H.; Brown, R. and Westlake, D. (2012) Safeguarding Babies and Very Young Children from Abuse and Neglect).
The assessment should demonstrate what the identified placement will offer in the long term for the child and show the commitment and positive relationship between the proposed carer and the child. It should identify how the placement will promote a safe, stable environment, the carer's ability to promote the child's education, health, cultural and religious needs and also, where appropriate, the contact arrangements between the child and their family and social connections within the community.
Adoption, Special Guardianship, and Child Arrangements Order are not simply placement arrangements but also legal arrangements through which Parental Responsibility is transferred either to the new family or shared between the new family and the child's birth parents. They also confirm the relationships between the child and their family. Therefore the Children's Services will always consider whether adoption, special guardianship or Child Arrangements Order is in the best interest of a child before supporting any such plan for permanency.
The Guidance is issued with reference to:
- The Children Act 1989 and associated Regulation and Guidance;
- Principles Practices in Regulation and Guidance (DHSC);
- Human Rights Act 1998;
- The Adoption Act and Children Act 2002;
- Children Act 2004;
- Children and Families Bill 2013;
- The Care Planning and Fostering (Miscellaneous Amendments) (England) Regulations 2015.
2. A Guide to What is Permanency Planning and Why Is It Needed?
As social workers working with children and their families there are various issues that will be identified that impact on parental capacity to provide a safe, stable loving family environment.
For some of these families parental issues are such that they are unable to make positive change in order to continue to care for their children in the long term; this will require alternative care options for permanency to be assessed. The permanency framework of emotional, physical, and legal conditions gives a child a sense of security, continuity, commitment and identity.
Permanency planning for a child should be a joint responsibility; the social worker should encourage parents to help plan for the child, and reflect on what is needed to support them. This will vary in scope and intensity as circumstances change, any such support must be based on need and not legal status.
The question "how are the child's permanency needs being met" must be at the core of everything we do.
Research from the 1950's first indicated that long term foster care without a sense of belonging could have a detrimental effect on the wellbeing of children and families and further research throughout the 1960's and 1970's highlighted the need to bring a sense of permanence into children's lives (see References).
It is recognised there is a sense of urgency as instability, lack of identity and sense of belonging for those children who are not in a secure environment in which to grow up, with a parent or carer who is committed to a lifelong nurturing relationship impact on the child.
Every effort should be made to avoid delay/drift in order to ensure those children's interests are promoted. This will mean that active twin track planning where there is serious doubt about the viability of the child being able to remain with or return to his/her birth family. This will be a key consideration of the child or young person's 1st and subsequent Statutory Looked after Reviews.
Gordon H (1950) Long-time care Child Welfare, 29, 3-8.
Pike V (1996) Permanent Planning for foster children: The Oregon Project Children Today 5(6), 22 -25 Maluccio, A Fein, E and Olmstead, K (1996) Permanency Planning for Children Tavistock Publications.
3. What Does Permanency Achieve for Children?
- A safe stable permanent home for a child as soon as possible;
- Parents and / or carers committed to providing a lifelong loving family environment;
- Protects the child or young person developmentally;
- Protects primary attachments, or creates new attachments;
- Preserves cultural and family connection;
- Wishes and feelings of a child are taken into account. The older more mature the child the greater the weight should be given to their wishes;
- When undertaking permanency planning social worker's have a duty to promote the child's links with his or her racial, cultural and religious heritage;
- Promoting placements wherever possible which means the child will be brought up within a similar racial, cultural and religious environment as his birth family;
- If the permanency option being considered is adoption, the Children and Families Bill 2013 has removed the requirement to give due consideration to ethnicity when identifying a match for a child.
4. Options for Permanence
Staying at Home
The first stage within permanence planning is work with children in need and their families to support them and their families to support them to stay together. Staying together offers the best chance of stability. Research shows that keeping a family together has a higher success rate than reunification. This option has to be balanced against the risk of harm to the child.
An Early Help offer should be made as outlined in Working Together to Safeguard Children. In Walsall Early Help assessments will be undertaken jointly with a lead professional.
Parents and their children who accept an Early Help offer will work in partnership, exploring the issues impacting on family life. They will work together to draw a plan of action with clear roles and responsibilities, with review dates to ensure progress is been met.
Exploring potential support services and considering direct work to enable parents and children to function in a positive manor and foster positive long term relationships will form part of the Early Help offer.
Throughout childhood there may be times when a family require early intervention support or brief intervention from VCS. However the Permanence Plan for the child will continue to be to remain at home.
Staying At Home Supported by the Local Authority
There are some families were enquiries have been made, assessments have been carried out, protection plans put in place and on occasions children have had short stays with extended family or friends at the request of parents or while enquiries have been ongoing.
One outcome of this activity and the interventions may be that while the child can return home there is a continued need to support the child or children through a Supervision Order.
A Supervision Order places a child or young person under the supervision of the Local Authority or a Probation Officer, who are required to advise, help and befriend the child. This means for some children that they will be able to remain in the family home and the allocated social workers will visit regularly.
A Supervision Order may have conditions. For example, that the child should have medical or psychiatric examination or treatment. It may also say that the child should take part in particular activities at specified times. As with all interventions whilst the identified plan is for the child/ran to remain at the family home this will be continually monitored, assessed and reviewed to ensure that this permanency plan is and continues to be in the best interest of the child or children.
The Order can only be for one year in the first instance, but the Supervisor can apply for this to be extended although it must not be for more than three years in all, and not after the person is 18 years old.
The Order can be stopped if any interested parties apply to the Court and the Court agrees, or if a Care Order is made.
For some children returning home will provide the right permanent solution and for these children good preparation and the proper support for them and their family is vital. Research tells us that the longer a child is Looked After, the less likelihood there is that the child will return home. We also know that the success of any return home will depend upon a variety of issues including:
- The degree of parental problems;
- The level of contact particularly within the first six months of placement;
- Motivation of parents towards changes being made at home;
- Supportive substitute caregivers; and
- The pressure for reunification;
A good quality assessment of all the domains affecting the child's care is central on which to base the decision whether or not a return to the immediate family is the correct next step to permanency for the child.
This means that active work on addressing the issues which lead to the need for separation in the first place must take place with both parents and children. This must be done while the child is in care and that both parents and children must be prepared for any return home because changes will have happened while the child has been away from the family home. Support may need to be intensive and sustained to enable the return home to be successful.
Private Fostering Arrangements
There are occasions when for various reasons parent's require support from friends, the families of their children's friends or alternative carers that may be identified within the community to care for their children. This can be in the short term and or at times a long term arrangement, in particular when the relationship between the parent and young person has broken down.
Private Fostering is legally defined as an arrangement that occurs when a child who is under 16 (or 18 for a child with learning difficulties and/or disabilities) is cared for by someone other than their parent or a close relative for 28 consecutive days or more.
A private foster carer may be a friend of the family or the child's friend's parents. Occasionally they will be a sometimes someone who is not previously known to the family, but who is willing to foster the child privately.
The Children Act 1989 requires parents and private foster carers to give the local authority advance notice of a Private Fostering arrangement. It also places specific duties on local authorities with responsibilities for children's services. The Children Act 2004 Section 44 placed a further duty on local authorities to promote public awareness of the notification requirements.
For such arrangements to fall under the Private Fostering Arrangements parents have to be in agreement with the identified placement and it has to be a placement that is going to last 28 days or more. Parents and Private Foster Carers will enter into a written agreement.
When assessments are been undertaken consideration also has to be given to any children living within the proposed foster placement and all those children should be spoken to and their wishes and feeling should be considered and any potential impact upon them.
Arrangements where a child may be visiting the UK on an exchange programme for six week and more will fall under the Private Fostering Legislation and Regulations. Local Collages should be reminded of their responsibility to notify the LA when such plans for children coming to the UK are made to ensure that assessments and appropriate agreements between parents and proposed careers are completed.
The allocated social worker will carry out specific and appropriate assessments in relation to the child and the private carer. Regular reviews of the placement and all assessments will take place to ensure that the placement is in the interest of the child and can meet the long term needs and foster positive relationships.
Permanence Away from Home
Where the outcome of assessment or enquiries with a child and its family conclude that it is not safe for a child to remain in the family home and they become Looked After, Children's Services need to consider alternative forms of permanency. This will ensure that the child or young person has a safe and stable placement which provides for their emotional well being, protects them developmentally and supports them into adulthood.A range of permanence options are available and should be considered. These include long term fostering, permanent kinship care, Special Guardianship Order, Child Arrangements Order and Adoption. Once the decision has been reached that a child or young person cannot remain or return to the family home the decision about how permanency will be achieved is not hierarchical and should be based on ensuring that the need for a safe, secure place to live which will enable that child benefit from a sense of permanency are met.
Placement With Connected Persons
Also see: Placements with Connected Persons Procedure.
Where the outcome of assessment or enquiries with a child and their family conclude that it is not safe for a child to remain in the family home and they become Looked After, every effort must be made to secure placement with a Connected Person. This should be as part of the plan working towards a return home or - if a return home is clearly assessed as not in the child's best interests it should be considered as the preferred permanence option. It is very important to establish at an early stage what relatives or friends might be available to care for the child, to avoid the kind of delays that can happen during Court proceedings where this work has not been done.
The child may become Looked After under Section 20 Children Act 1989 or Interim Care Order (ICO) under Section 31 Children Act 1989. If the circumstances of the need for placement with the Connected Person is such that it is not possible to fulfil all requirements of the Fostering Services Regulations 2011 in approving the Connected Person as a local authority foster carer before placing the child, then Regulation 24(1) of the CPP&CR Regulations 2010 set out arrangements for Temporary approval of a Connected Person.
A Connected Person to a Looked After child is a relative, friend or other person who has a connection with them. 'Relative' means a grandparent, brother, sister, uncle or aunt (either of full blood or half blood or by marriage or civil partnership) or step-parent. A Connected Person could also be somebody with a professional relationship with the child, such as a child minder.
Long Term Foster Care
Decision to Look After a Child Procedure, Permanence Planning, contains procedures for permanence planning.
For the first time the Care Planning and Fostering (Miscellaneous Amendments) (England) Regulations 2015 provide a definition of a long term foster placement which is:
- The child's plan for permanence is foster care;
- The foster carer has agreed to look after the child until they cease to be looked after; and
- The child's responsible authority has confirmed the arrangement to the foster carer, the child and their birth parents.
Long term foster care is generally appropriate for older children and young people. This option of permanency is particularly useful for older children who have retained strong links to their birth families and do not want or need the formality of adoption.
Long term fostering has continued advantages as a permanency plan as it can enable continued support to the child and foster family in placement which is regularly reviewed to ensure that the child's needs are been met.
Often for older children and for long term foster careers the application of an Order whether Special Guardianship or Child Arrangements Order can give a sense of legal permanency and gives the young person a further sense of belonging. It reiterates the commitment from the carer to the child it also provides further a shared Parental Responsibility.
Residential CareFor almost all children the best place for them to grow up is within a family structure. However, for a very few children and young people their very high level of needs will mean that a residential setting will best meet their complex needs. Such settings must be able to demonstrate sound pedagogy underpinning their practice, have staff that are trained, supervised and supported well and that additional specialist support is available for staff and the children in their care. Even if a child or young person cannot remain in a family setting, maintaining the child's links with their wider community ~ their extended family, their school and leisure links ~ will be important in enabling the child to retain and build positively on their place within their home community.
Special Guardianship Orders
When the child or young person needs to live permanently away from their parents and the carer would like to make major decisions on behalf of the child, similar to those with an Adoption Order, but everyone agrees that links with their birth parents should continue, then a Special Guardianship Order can be applied for. This will restrict the birth parents rights and provide a sense of permanency but will not permanently end the relationship. A foster carer with whom the child has lived for at least 1 year can apply for a Special Guardianship Order and an assessment which may lead to a Support Plan, including consideration of any health, education and financial support should be considered.
Child Arrangements Order
The granting of a Child Arrangements Order to someone automatically gives the carer parental responsibility for the child they are looking after. Parental Responsibility obtained as a result of a Child Arrangements Order will continue until the order ceases. As with a Special Guardianship Order the rights of birth parents are not removed but they are limited as to how they exercise these.
A Child Arrangements Order lasts until the child is 16 or 18 if the circumstances of the case are exceptional and the court has ordered that it continue for longer.
A Child Arrangements Order prevents:
- Changing the registered name of the child;
- Removing the child from the UK (for more than 1 month);
- Consenting to the child's adoption without the agreement of everyone with Parental Responsibility.
However, as with a Special Guardianship Order, a Child Arrangements Order will provide a sense of permanence and removes the child from the care of the local authority. Financial assistance may be given to those in whose favour a Child Arrangements Order has been made, in the form of a set up grant; exceptionally a weekly allowance may be made.
When the assessment has concluded that children cannot be returned to their birth or extended family, research strongly supports adoption as a permanency consideration as a main factor to stability of children, especially very young children. This does not mean that Adoption should not be actively considered for older children; however, it does mean that the search for adoptive parents needs to be pro-active and resolute where adoption is considered to be the right route to permanence for an older child.
An Adoption Order transfers Parental Responsibility for the child from birth parents and others who had Parental Responsibility, including the Local Authority, permanently and solely to the Adopter(s).An Adoption Order is irrevocable and no future legal challenge is possible; the child is a permanent family member into adulthood.
Appendix 1: Permanence Options Checklist of Considerations
|Child Arrangements Orders/Special Guardianship||Adoption||Long Term Fostering|
|Child needs the security of a legally defined placement with alternative carers, but does not require a lifelong commitment involving a change of identity.||Child's primary need is to belong to a family who will make a lifelong commitment.||Primary need is for a stable, loving family environment whilst there is still a significant level of continued involvement with the birth family.|
|Child's relation, foster or other carer needs to exercise day to day parental responsibility and is prepared to do so as a lifelong commitment.||Child's birth parents are not able or not willing to share parental responsibility in order to meet their child's needs, even though there may be contact.||Child has a clear sense of identity with the birth family, whilst needing to be looked after away from home.|
|There is no need for continuing monitoring and review by the Local Authority, although support services may still need to be arranged.||Child needs an opportunity to develop a new sense of identity whilst being supported to maintain or develop a healthy understanding of their past.||There is need for continuing oversight and monitoring of the child's developmental progress.|
|Child has a strong attachment to the alternative carers and legally defined permanence is assessed as a positive contribution to their sense of belonging and security.||Child expresses a wish to be adopted.||Birth parents are able and willing to exercise a degree of parental responsibility.|
In this model children are placed with foster/adoptive carers who can support attempts at rehabilitation or adopt the child if rehabilitation fails.
The model sets firm timescales during which both reunification and permanence options are pursued.
Parallel or Twin Track Planning
Social Workers are encouraged to consider working to this model; working towards reunification whilst at the same time developing an alternative Permanence Plan. This is done within strictly limited timescales. The court require children presented before the Court in Care proceedings to have parallel or twin track planning to be reflected in the Care Plan.
Fostering for Adoption
This allows approved adopters to care for a child on a fostering basis in anticipation of the placement order being made. The new duty will require local authorities to give preference to a 'Fostering for Adoption' placement if one is available. The duty will apply where the local authority has decided the child should to be placed for adoption through the Statutory Looked after Review process. The placement will remain a Fostering for Adoption placement until such time that the placement order is issued and the match between the family and the child is presented to the Adoption panel for a recommendation and is subsequently agreed by the Agency Decision Maker, once this has taken place, the placement becomes an adoption placement.
In both the concurrent planning and twin track models, a Contingency Plan is developed in parallel with intensive work with the biological family towards rehabilitation. The Contingency Plan could include the following:
- Kinship placement, with or without a Child Arrangements Order;
- Adoption outside the family;
- Child Arrangements Order;
- Permanent fostering;
- Plan to remain long-term in residential placement;
- Legislative and National Policy;
- Children Act 1989;
- Fostering Services (England) Regulations 2011 Fostering Services National Minimum Standards 2011;
- Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations - Volume 4: Fostering Services Care Planning, Placement and Case Review Regulations 2010;
- The Disability and Equality Act 2010;
- The Human Rights Act 1998;
- The Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000;
- The Children's Workforce Development Council (CWDC) Training, Support;
- Development Standards for Foster Care (2007);
- CWDC (2011) Standards for Family and Friends Carer;
- Making Not Breaking, The Care Enquiry (2013);
- Children and Families Bill 2013.